Louisiana Jobs Now Fund bill by Abraham rejected

BATON ROUGE — House lawmakers on Wednesday rejected legislation that would have set up a fund to pay for degree programs in high-demand job fields using money from an income tax credit for K-12 education.

Lawmakers voted 27-65 to reject House Bill 184, by Rep. Mark Abraham, R-Lake Charles.

It would have set up the Louisiana Jobs Now Fund.

The legislation is tied to lawmakers approving S.B. 25, by Sen. J.P. Morrell, D-New Orleans. That bill would sunset the tax credit, which provides parents with $25 a year for each dependent child in grades K-12.

Morrell’s bill is pending action in the House Ways and Means Committee. It passed the Senate 35-1 on May 15.

Abraham said the tax credit generates about $12 million annually. Of that, half would go to early childhood development, and the rest would go to the jobs creation fund.

Abraham said half of the Jobs Now Fund money would go to the Louisiana Community and Technical College System, while the other half would go to four-year universities.

Abraham said there are 10,000 job openings in certain fields because of a lack of trained workers.

Rep. J. Rogers Pope, R-Denham Springs, called Abraham’s bill “horrible.” He said it isn’t “good public policy” to pit one group against another.

Rep. Jay Morris, R-Monroe, called the measure “another statutory dedication.”

“This is the kind of stuff that gets us into trouble,” he said.

Abraham said no group asked him to push the legislation.

“I saw the need for workforce development,” he said. “I think it’s a great return on investment. Sometimes we have to think outside of the box and do what we believe is the wisest use of the dollars.”

Similar legislation, H.B. 202, by Abraham, died in the House Ways and Means Committee on Monday. 

The legislation would have repealed the educational expenses income tax credit, along with the elementary and secondary school tuition income tax deduction.

Reps. Abraham, Mike Danahay, D-Sulphur, Stephen Dwight, R-Moss Bluff, A.B. Franklin, and Dorothy Sue Hill, D-Dry Creek, voted for the measure.

James Armes, D-Leesville, John Guinn, R-Jennings, and Frank Howard, R-Many, opposed it.

Rep. Bob Hensgens, R-Abbeville, was reported as absent.